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Editorial from the Los Angeles Times: Copyright © 1976
Los Angeles Times. Reprinted by permission.
A division of
The Hearst Corporation
New York, New York 10019
Copyright © 1980 by the Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
Published by arrangement with McGraw-Hill Book Company
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 79-20611
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to reproduce this book or portions thereof in
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New York 10020.
The McGraw-Hill edition contains the following Library of
Congress Cataloging in Publication Data:
Barron, John, 1930 - MiG pilot
1. Belenko, Viktor
2. Fighter pilots Russia - Biography
3. Defectors - Russia - Biography
4. MiG-25 (Jet fighter plane)
First Avon Printing: April 1981
AVON TRADEMARK REG. U.S. PAT. OFF. AND IN
OTHER COUNTRIES, MARCA REGISTRADA,
HECHO EN U.S.A.
Printed in the U.S.A.
As he had done every day except Sunday during the past
four weeks, Lieutenant Viktor Ivanovich Belenko awakened
himself early to watch what the dawn might reveal.
The first light was promising, and upon seeing the fiery,
blinding sun rise, he knew: almost certainly this would be
the day. Above the vast forests of pine, cedar, birch, and
poplar stretching along the Pacific shores of the Soviet
Far East, the sky was azure and cloudless. The magnificent
weather meant that barring mistakes, malfunctions, or
some other vagary, in all likelihood he would fly as scheduled.
Probably he finally could attempt the supreme mission
which rain, fuel shortages, or bureaucratic caprice
repeatedly had forestalled. If the weather held, his chances
of reaching the objective would be as good as he ever could
Belenko estimated it all should be over within the next
six hours. At age twenty-nine, he would be either dead or
reborn into a new world. He felt tension in the muscles of
the arms, legs, and stomach, but the stress derived more
from the complexity of the mental tasks ahead than from
fear of dying. During his training as a MiG (Named for
its designers, Mikoyan and Gurevich) pilot he had lived
on the edge of death so long and seen sudden, violent death
so often that he had given up contemplating it. He had
come to regard it simply as an unfathomable phenomenon
to be avoided as long as possible, but not at any price.
Neither did he dwell on the infinite uncertainties and unknowns
that awaited him should he succeed and survive.
He had assessed them as best he could before making his
decision, and there was no profit in considering them further
now. The awareness that he was looking for the last
time at his pretty wife and three-year-old son, both sleeping
within his reach near the window, evoked no emotion
either. She had adamantly demanded a divorce and had
announced her intent to take their child back to her parents
in Magadan, some 1,250 miles away. The many failed
attempts at reconciliation had sapped all emotion from the
marriage, and there was nothing more to say. He was
tempted to pick up and hold his son. No! Don't! He might
cry. You wouldn't ordinarily pick him up at this hour.
Don't do one thing that you wouldn't ordinarily do.
Belenko put on his shirt, trousers, and boots quickly, trying not to awaken his family or the family occupying the other room of the apartment. From between the pages of a tattered Russian-English dictionary he removed a slip of paper on which he had written a three-sentence message succinctly explaining his mission. Preparation of the message the month before and its retention ever since had been dangerous. Yet it was necessary that he deliver a written message instantly if all went well, so he folded the paper into a tight square and buried it in his pocket.
In the small yard outside the frame apartment house
reserved for officers, he exercised for fifteen minutes, doing
push-ups on soggy ground and chinning himself from
the limb of a tree. Then he commenced jogging through
the muddy streets of Chuguyevka, a village situated in the
taiga 120 miles northeast of Vladivostok, toward the bus
stop about a mile away. Running and jumping puddles,
Belenko looked like a prototype of the New Communist
Man the Party spoke endlessly of creating. He stood just
over five feet eight inches and had an athletic physique,
with broad, slightly sloping shoulders powerfully developed
by years of boxing, arm wrestling, and calisthenics. A Soviet
 television program once pictured him — yellow hair,
fair complexion, and large blue eyes widely set in a handsome,
boyish face — as the very model of a young pilot.
Women, particularly older women, were beguiled by his
smile, which they found simultaneously shy and rakish.
At about seven that morning, September 6, 1976,
Belenko arrived in a decrepit bus, built before World War
II, at the headquarters compound of the 513th Fighter
Regiment of the Soviet Air Defense Command. Outside
the smallest of the red-and-white-brick buildings he hesitated.
No, you have to eat. You would be missed. Besides,
you will need the strength. Go on!
In the officers' mess, fresh white cloths covered the
tables, each set for four pilots, and still-life paintings of
fruit and vegetables adorned the walls. The waitresses,
girls in the late teens or early twenties, all employed because
they were pretty, enhanced the ambience. A physician
was tasting the breakfast of goulash, rice, fruit compote,
white bread, buttermilk, and tea to make sure it
was fit for fliers. After he approved the food, everyone
sat down in white plastic chairs and began.
Because Belenko was acting deputy commander of the
3rd Squadron, he customarily dined with the squadron
commander, Yevgeny Petrovich Pankovsky. More often
than not, by breakfast time Pankovsky's day had already
started unhappily. The regimental commander, Lieutenant
Colonel Yevgeny Ivanovich Shevsov, rose early to survey
the wreckage visited upon his domain during the night,
and by six-thirty he had the squadron commanders before
him to berate and degrade them for the most recent transgressions
of their underlings.
Shevsov was a sorely troubled officer. This was his first
command, and the difficulties besetting the regiment would
have taxed the capacities of the wisest and most experienced
leader. He did not quite know how to cope, but he
tried mightily, shouting, threatening, and often ridiculing
officers in front of one another and the men. Other pilots
dubbed him the Monster, but to Belenko he looked more
like a toothless boxer dog: short, husky, with receding red
hair, a protruding jaw, and a face that seemed in perpetual
motion, as if he were chewing or growling.
 Belenko greeted his squadron commander as always.
"Good morning, Yevgeny Petrovich."
"You think it's a good morning? Do you know that already
I got reamed? Did you know that our soldiers refused
to eat breakfast this morning? They threw their food
at the cooks, and one of them hit a cook."
"Would you eat that food from their mess hall?"
"I wouldn't eat that food either. I think if we would
take a pig from a good kolkhoz and put that pig in the
mess hall, that pig would faint."
"Well, I agree. But what can I do about it?"
At eight the regiment assembled on the asphalt parade
ground before the staff headquarters buildings. Pilots stood
at attention in the first rank; flight engineers, their assistants,
and the enlisted men in succeeding ranks behind.
"Comrade Soldiers, Sergeants, and Officers!" Shevsov
shouted. "Today we fly. Our mission is a vital mission, for
we will fire rockets. The results of this important mission
will depend on everybody, from soldiers to officers, working
together. In spite of all our troubles here, we each
must do our best today.
"We must remember that the Americans are not sleeping.
We must remember that the Chinese are only a day's
march away. We must remember that aircraft, fuel, and
rockets are expensive and that our government which supplies
them is not a milk cow. We cannot afford soon to
repeat this mission, so we must do it properly today.
"Now, next weekend we will give the Party a Communist
Weekend. Everybody will work, officers and soldiers;
everybody. Each squadron must gather sod and plant it
over the aircraft bunkers so that from the sky they will
appear to the Americans to be no more than green, grassy
"I have one other announcement, a very serious announcement.
Do you know that our regiment has a great
lover? Do you know whom he loves? Not his faithful wife
who waits far away, anxious to join him here as soon as
quarters are ready; no, he loves a whore in the village, a
common whore." While the officers winced and the enlisted
men snickered, Shevsov read aloud a telegram from
 the wife of a flight engineer, beseeching him to compel
her husband to cease a dalliance of which she suspected
him. "Here we have a big example of degenerate capitalist
morality. Let this be a warning to all. Henceforth in our
regiment we will abide by and tolerate only communist
"All squadron commanders report to my office. For
today that is all. Dismissed."
In the locker room Belenko changed into the dark-blue
cotton flight suit issued him nineteen months before. It
would be five more months before he was due to receive
another, and he had tried to keep this one serviceable by
neatly sewing patches on the knees and elbows. A duty
officer unlocked the safe and handed him an automatic
pistol and two clips of seven rounds each, for which he
signed a receipt.
Sometime back a pilot had parachuted from a disabled
plane into a remote wilderness, where he eventually died
of privation and hunger. Hunters who came upon the skeleton
many months later found a diary in which the pilot
recorded his suffering and complained about the lack of
any equipment that might have enabled him to survive in
the wilderness. The last entry read, "Thank you, Party, for
taking such good care of Soviet pilots." Soon combat pilots
were issued pistols, and their aircraft equipped with survival
kits containing food, water, medicine, fishing gear,
flares, matches, a mirror, and shark repellent. Newly
armed, a pilot came home, found his wife in bed with a
friend, and killed them both. Thereupon, in the interest of
domestic tranquillity, the Party ordered the pistols recalled
and kept locked up until just before flights.
During the next couple of hours briefing officers meticulously
reviewed the flight plans. Planes from the squadron
designated to fire missiles were to fly almost due eastward
over the sea, where Navy ships would launch the target
drones at which they would shoot. Belenko's squadron
would proceed to other exercise areas, practice intercept
approaches, and then, relying solely on instruments, return
to the base, and land. Because of the fine weather, many
MiG-23s from adjacent bases probably would be in the
air and perhaps also firing. Thus, it would be dangerous
 for any pilot to stray out of the zone to which Ground
Control directed him.
Belenko sat motionless, maintaining a pose of respectful
attentiveness while he contemplated his personal flight plan.
His mind raced far away, computing times, distance, speed,
fuel consumption, courses, points of probable intercept,
evasive maneuvers, deceptions, and all exigencies he could
The fliers returned at eleven for a second breakfast of
sausage, boiled eggs, white bread, butter, tea, and a chunk
of chocolate, all again first tasted by a physician. Then a
military truck hauled them over a bumpy, unpaved road to
the Sakharovka Air Base two miles from squadron headquarters.
Belenko presented himself in the hangar dispensary
to the regimental physician for physical examination.
The doctor protected the pilots as much as he could. They
were forbidden to drink five days prior to flying; but everyone
drank some, and many drank heavily. He ignored
minor traces of alcohol, and if he judged the condition of
a pilot hazardous in consequence of imbibing, he disqualified
him for the day on other grounds — nasal congestion,
slight ear infection, temperature; something that would
He took Belenko's temperature, pulse, and blood pressure,
then examined his eyes, ears, and throat.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"What kind of flight do you have today?"
The physician stopped talking and studied him carefully
— skeptically, Belenko thought.
"Tell me, Lieutenant, have you drunk any alcohol in the
past twenty-four hours?"
"No, not in the last five days," Belenko answered truthfully.
"Do you think you are ready to fly your mission?"
"I am certain."
"Well, your blood pressure is somewhat high. Nothing
to be alarmed about, but for you, rather high. Is something
"Not at all." Anticipating that the body might betray
 his tensions, Belenko had readied an explanation. "Comrade
Doctor, if I don't exercise, I feel like lumpy potatoes,
and I've been cooped up for almost a week. This morning,
when I saw the sun, I went out and ran like a deer, more
than six kilometers. I'm probably still a little winded."
The doctor nodded. "That could account for it. Good
luck on your flight, Comrade Lieutenant."
Belenko joined other pilots, who, pending the latest report
from the meteorological officer, were standing around
the hangar, joking about the forthcoming Communist
Weekend. It was preposterous to cover the bunkers with
sod. Obviously the Americans long ago had located and
targeted the airfield. How could anyone think they would
believe it suddenly was not there anymore? Someone said,
"Besides, I heard that the cameras in their satellites can
photograph a soldier's boots from three hundred kilometers
The conversation ceased, and the pilots edged off in different
directions at the sight of Vladimir Stepanovich
Volodin, the young KGB lieutenant assigned to the regiment.
"Good morning, Viktor Ivanovich, how are you?"
"And Ludmilla and Dmitri. How are they?"
"They are well also."
"What's new? What do you hear?"
"Well, the men rebelled again this morning, refused to
"Yes, I heard. What do you think the problem is?"
Answer him just as you regularly would.
"Vladimir Stepanovich, you know what the problem is
as well as I do. Everybody knows."
"I still would like to talk to you. Stop by this afternoon
after your flight. Let's talk."
There was nothing at all unusual about this. The KGB
officer naturally slinked around, asking, "What's new?
What do you hear?" Yet for a moment Belenko worried.
Why did he come to me just now? Why did he ask me
that? Well, so what? The bastard won't be seeing me this
afternoon, that's for sure.
The meterological officers reported that to the east,
where Belenko's squadron would fly, the skies were fair
 and should remain so throughout the afternoon. However,
to the southeast, where his actual objective lay, some cloud
formations were gathering. A front might be moving in
from Japan, but it was nothing to worry about this afternoon.
No! The forecast was clear everywhere. Idiots! How
thick is it? Think of a reason to ask him. No, don't. There
is no reason. Careful. Show no concern. You'll just have
to take the chance.
From the supply room Belenko drew his flight helmet,
oxygen mask, and gloves. "Comrade Lieutenant, you forgot
your life preserver," a sergeant called. Don't take it.
"Thanks. I won't be over water today."
Striding from the hangar, he saw the aircraft — twenty
MiG-25s — poised wing to wing on the runway some 200
yards away. Weighing twenty-two tons, with twin tail fins,
cantilevered tail planes, thick, short, swept-back wings, two
enormous engines, and a long rocketlike nose ending with
a radar needle, the MiG-25 reminded Belenko of a great
steel bird of prey, dark gray and angry. Few weapons in
the Soviet arsenal were more closely guarded from foreign
observation, and even among themselves the Russians in
official terminology simply referred to the MiG-25 as
Product No. 84. A stripped-down model in 1967 set a
world record by achieving a speed of 1,852 miles an hour,
and another in 1973 eclipsed altitude records by soaring to
118,898 feet. Aging American F-4 Phantoms, though
equipped with excellent missiles and flown by skilled pilots,
had been unable to intercept or shoot down MiG-25s which
occasionally streaked over the Mediterranean and the Middle
East, taking photographs. No Westerner ever had been
close to a MiG-25, and much about it was unknown.
Nevertheless, the MiG-25 in the autumn of 1976 was the
one plane most feared in the West. In 1973, U.S. Air Force
Secretary Robert C. Seamans, a scientist with impressive
aeronautical credentials, had characterized it as "probably
the best interceptor in production in the world today."
While Defense Secretary, James R. Schlesinger had warned
that the MiG-25 was so formidable that its widespread
development and deployment would force fundamental
 changes in Western strategy and weaponry. More than 400
of the interceptors had already been deployed. They embodied
the most advanced aeronautical technology and, in
a sense, the national pride of the Soviet Union. The comparatively
few young men chosen, trained, and entrusted
to fly them represented an acknowledged and honored
elite in the Soviet armed forces.
Swarms of men were making the planes ready. Tracks
filled each with fourteen tons of jet fuel and half a ton of
coolant alcohol and pumped oxygen into life-support systems.
From smaller trucks bearing electronic test equipment,
technicians checked the missiles, fire control, and
electronic systems. Others stepped under and around the
planes, physically inspecting the exterior surfaces and
Belenko climbed a fourteen-foot metal ladder, followed
by his flight engineer, who helped him settle into the green
cockpit, green because Soviet researchers believed it the
most soothing color. The cushioned seat was the most comfortable
in which he ever had sat. The various dials, gauges,
buttons, and levers were well arranged and easily accessible.
Conspicuous among them was a red button labeled
"Danger." Pilots were instructed that should they be forced
down or have to eject themselves from the aircraft outside
the Soviet Union, they must press the button before leaving
the cockpit. Supposedly it activated a timing device which
a few minutes later would detonate explosives to destroy
the most secret components of the plane. Some fliers wondered,
however, whether a press of the button might not
instantly blow up the entire aircraft, pilot included. He
also dared not touch the radar switch because the impulses
from the MiG-25 radar were so powerful they could kill
a rabbit at a thousand meters. Hence, it was a crime to
activate the radar on the ground.
Turning on his radio, Belenko spoke to the control
tower. "This is Number Oh-six-eight. Request permission
to start engines."
The tower answered quickly. "Number Oh-six-eight, you
have permission to start engines."
"Understood. I am executing," Belenko said, waving to
his flight engineer, who backed down the ladder, ordered
 the ground crew to remove the engine covers, and signaled
that the hydraulic systems were functioning. As Belenko
flicked switches and pushed buttons, the engines produced
a soft whine that soon swelled into a roar. "This is Oh-six-eight,"
Belenko radioed the tower. "I request permission
"Oh-six-eight, you have permission."
"Understood. I am executing."
Belenko taxied the MiG-25 to the end of the taxi ramp
about half a mile away. Four MiGs were ahead of him, and
he had to wait until a green light authorized him to turn
onto the runway. "This is Oh-six-eight. Request permission
to take off."
"Oh-six-eight, you have permission."
"Understood. I am executing."
He hesitated a few seconds to look once more at the surrounding
forests. Above all else in his homeland, he loved
the rugged, open expanses and the forests where he had
wandered since boyhood. There he could explore and discover
and meditate, be alone with a girl or with himself.
Only there and in the cockpit had he ever felt free. Under
brilliant sunshine, the leaves were turning copper, gold,
and ruby, and he thought that the forest never had appeared
more majestic, never more impervious and antithetical
to human squalor.
With ignition of the afterburner, the aircraft vibrated,
bucked, and strained forward. "Oh-six-eight, you have
afterburn," the tower confirmed. "We wish you all good."
Belenko released the brakes at exactly 12:50 P.M., and the
MiG surged down the runway and within fifteen seconds
into the air. While still perilously low, he shut the afterburner
prematurely to conserve fuel, which was precious,
so precious that he gladly would have exchanged some of
his own blood for extra fuel. Also to conserve, he ascended
more slowly than usual to 24,000 feet and took five minutes
instead of the normal four to enter Training Zone No.
2 on a course of 090 degrees. Beginning the wide 360-degree
turn which ground controllers were expecting of
him, he saw numerous other MiG-25s in the area, fully
armed and fueled. The needle, rotating swiftly around the
compass dial with his continuous change in heading,
 showed that he rapidly was approaching the point of no
return. For upon completion of the circle, he would have
to proceed either with the programmed flight or with his
You can still go back, and nobody will know. If you go,
it's forever. I'm going.
Now he began his own secret flight plan.
Back on a course of 090, he let the plane glide downward,
hoping the descent would be so gradual the radar
controllers would not at once notice. At 19,000 feet,
Belenko suddenly jammed the stick forward and to the
left and plunged the MiG into a power dive toward the
floor of a valley ahead, shrieking and hurtling straight
down so that the whole earth seemed to be jumping right
into his face until he managed to level off at 100 feet.
Never had he attempted such a dive, nor had he ever tried
to fly a MiG-25 so low, for below even 1,000 feet it was
clumsy and difficult to control. Yet from study of American
tactics in Vietnam, he knew that at 100 feet he would
be safe from the thickets of SAMs (surface-to-air missiles)
and antiaircraft batteries emplaced on the peaks of the
valley and that these bristling peaks would hide him from
Applying power, he thundered through the valley and
in two minutes shot out over the Sea of Japan. He pushed
an emergency button which started broadcasting a continuous
signal indicating his plane was on the verge of
crashing. After about forty seconds he turned off the signal
to persuade all listening on the distress frequency that it
had crashed. Simultaneously he shut down his radar and all
other equipment whose electronic emissions might be
tracked. Lastly, he switched off his radio, even though it
gave off no emissions. He did not want to be affected or
distracted by what they might be saying, what they might
be doing, how they might be pursuing. He needed now to
concentrate purely and intently on the equations of fuel,
speed, altitude, time, and distance, which he calculated
mainly in his head, aided by only a pencil and tablet. Perhaps
use of the cockpit computer would have been more
practical and efficient. But he was resolved, as he had done
in all crises of his life, to rely on, to trust only himself.
 To evade detection by the long-range radars back on
land and the missile-carrying Soviet ships patrolling offshore,
Belenko flew so low that twice he had to swerve to
avoid hitting fishing vessels. Only when he perceived that
the waves were rising so high that he might smash into
one did he go to a slightly safer altitude of 150 feet.
Along with mounting waves, he encountered darkening
skies and rainsqualls which buffeted the plane and portended
worsening weather ahead. His mental computations
portended much worse. At sea level the MiG was devouring
fuel at a fatally gluttonous rate, far exceeding preflight
estimates. Rapid recalculations yielded the same grim results.
Unless he drastically reduced fuel consumption at
once by assuming an altitude of at least 20,000 feet, he
never would make landfall. Yet he had not flown far
enough to go up safely to that height. He still would be
within reach of Soviet radars and SAMs. He also might
be picked up on the radars of other Soviet aircraft hunting
to rescue him, had he survived a crash at sea, or to
kill him, were he still aloft.
Better possible death than certain death, Belenko reasoned,
pulling up into the clouds, which quickly encased
him in darkness. He had flown on a southeasterly course,
dead reckoning his way toward Hokkaido, the northernmost
of the Japanese islands and the one closest to his
base. At approximately 1:20 P.M. — just thirty minutes
after takeoff — he figured he was nearing Japanese airspace
and interception by Phantom fighters of the Japanese Air
Self-Defense Force. To signify lack of hostile intent and
facilitate interception, he throttled back the engines and
glided down toward Japan, scarcely sustaining airspeed.
Each moment he hoped to break free of the clouds and
into the clear, where the Phantoms could see him.
For years he had been taught to fear and fight these
planes created by the Americans. Now he awaited them as
saving angels. His whole flight plan was predicated upon
confidence that the Japanese would scramble fighters to
force him down as soon as he intruded over their territory.
He knew that the Russians were under orders to fire
SAMs at any foreign aircraft violating Soviet territory, and
 he feared the Japanese would do the same unless he were
met and escorted by their own interceptors. More important,
he counted on the Japanese interceptors to lead him
to a safe landing field. On an old map of Hokkaido he had
discerned only one field, the military base at Chitose, which
seemed large enough to accommodate a MiG-25. Perhaps
the Japanese would lead him to a closer field unknown to
him. Regardless, he probably had enough fuel to reach
Chitose if they escorted him there promptly and directly.
But they would have to find him on their own because his
radio frequency band was so narrow he could communicate
only with other MiGs.
Thrice during the descent the MiG sliced through thin
layers of blue only to be engulfed anew in swirling dirty
gray clouds, and not until it had dropped to 1,800 feet
did Belenko find himself in clear sky. He circled, attempting
to take visual bearings and locate Japanese interceptors.
Nowhere could he see an aircraft of any type. Where are
the Phantoms? Where are the damned Phantoms?
Both Phantoms and MiGs at that moment were all
around, desperately searching for him. His plane first appeared
on Japanese radar screens as an unidentified blip at
1:11 P.M. when he rose from the sea to 20,000 feet. Nine
minutes later, with the blip moving toward the center of
the screens, the commander of the Chitose base ordered
Phantoms to take off for interception. Simultaneously the
Japanese vainly tried to warn him away through broadcasts
in both Russian and English. At 1:22, about the time
he himself figured, Belenko breached Japanese airspace,
and the Phantoms, vectored from the ground, closed upon
him. However, at 1:26, as Belenko started to drift down
in quest of clear sky, his MiG disappeared from the radarscopes,
which, because of worsening atmospheric conditions,
were already cluttered with confusing reflections
from land and sea surfaces. Without any more guidance
from the ground, the Phantoms flew about futilely in the
overcast. Almost certainly, Soviet monitors heard the Japanese
broadcasts and concluded that the plane being warned
was Belenko's, for unidentified aircraft, presumably Russian,
streaked toward Japan.
 Ignorant of both the Japanese and the Soviet actions,
Belenko had no time to conjecture about what might be
happening. Neither did he have time for fear.
The Japanese aren't going to find you. At least, you
can't count on them anymore. You'll have to take a chance.
You have to decide, right now.
From the configuration of the coastline, initially visible
to him about 1:30, he deduced that he was approaching
Hokkaido's southwestern peninsula. Chitose lay to the
northeast, roughly toward the middle of the island, behind
a range of mountains still shrouded in clouds. The gauge
indicated he had sufficient fuel for another sixteen to
eighteen minutes of flight, maybe enough to carry him to
Chitose if he immediately headed there. If he went back
up into the clouds and over the unfamiliar mountains, however,
he would forfeit all control of his fate. Only by sheer
luck might he discover a hole in the clouds that would
enable him both to descend safely and to sight the military
field before exhausting his fuel. Without such good luck,
the probabilities were that he would crash into some invisible
peak or have to attempt a forced landing on impossible
terrain. Had his purposes been different, he might
have considered probing for a safe passage downward
until his fuel was gone, then bailing out. But to Belenko,
preservation of the MiG-25 was more important than
preservation of his own life, and he was determined to
land the plane intact if there was any chance, even one in
Hence, he decided to stay beneath the clouds, fly eastward
past the southern end of the mountain range, then
turn north toward Chitose. He appreciated that he did not
have enough fuel to follow this circuitous course all the
way to the air base. But so long as he could see, there was
a possibility of finding some place, a stretch of flat land,
a highway perhaps, to try to land.
A red warning light flashed in the cockpit at 1:42, and
an instant afterward a panel lit up, illuminating the words
"You Have Six Minutes of Fuel Left." Belenko reached
out and turned off the warning lights. Why be bothered?
He was over water again, having crossed the peninsula
above Volcano Bay, so he banked into a ninety-degree turn
 northward toward land, still flying at 1,800 feet. Straight
ahead he saw another mass of clouds, but he elected to
maintain altitude and plunge into them. They might form
just an isolated patch, and the lower he went, the more
rapidly the MiG would consume fuel, and the less his
glide range would be.
Suddenly a dulcet female voice startled him. Emanating
from a recording he did not know existed, the voice was as
calm as it was sweet: "Caution, Oh-six-eight! Your fuel
supply has dropped to an emergency level. You are in an
Belenko replied aloud, "Woman, wherever you are, tell
me something I don't know. Tell me where is that aerodrome."
The fuel gauge stood at empty, and Belenko guessed he had, at most, two minutes left. The clouds had not dissipated, and there was nothing else to do. So he pointed the MiG-25 down toward land and the unknown.
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